by Mike Ratliff
14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 This I command you, that you love one another.
18 “ If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. (John 15:14-19 NASB)
A study of the book of Acts reveals that as Christianity spread as the Apostles obediently made disciples wherever they went, it was always accompanied by persecution. The hotter the persecution the more encouraged the brethren became. While that is not logical to the fallen mind, that is exactly how God grew His church. In the early 2nd century the bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John, was brought to the Roman authorities and ordered to confess that Caesar is lord. Polycarp was eighty-six years old at this point. All he had to do was utter that statement as he offered a pinch of incense to Caesar, but he refused. He was martyred by fire.
What we must never forget when looking at these things that the result of Polycarp’s martyrdom, for instance, was that through it Christians who witnessed his stand were inspired to remain faithful. Again, this is illogical to the fallen mind, but my brethren, we must never forget that God’s ways are not our ways.
Let it not make thee despair neither yet discourage thee O reader, that it is forbidden thee in pain of life and goods or that it is made breaking of the King’s peace or treason unto His Highness to read the word of thy soul’s health. But much rather be bold in the Lord and comfort thy soul. Forasmuch as thou art pure and has an evident token through such persecution that it is the true word of God. Which word is ever hated of the world, neither was ever without persecution (as thou seest in all the stories of the Bible both of the New Testament and also of the Old) neither can be, no more than the sun can without his light. And forasmuch as contrarywise thou art sure that the Pope’s doctrine is not of God which (as thou seest) is so agreeable unto the world, and is so received of the world or which rather so receiveth the world and the pleasures of the world, and seeketh nothing but the possessions of the world, and authority in the world, and to bear a rule in the world, and persecuteth the word of God, and with all wiliness driveth the people from it, and with false and sophistical reasons maketh them afeared of it: yea curseth them and excommunicateth them, and bringeth them in belief that they be damned, if they look on it, and that is but doctrine to deceive men, and moveth the blind powers of the world to slay with fire, water, and sword all that cleave unto it. For the world loveth that which is his, and hateth that which is chosen out of the world to serve God in the spirit. As Christ saith to his disciples (John 15) if ye were of the world, the world would love his own. But I have chosen you out of the world and therefore the world hateth you.1
Knowing this, how is it that the Christian leaders in our time pursue just the opposite? What I mean is that the Bible clearly teaches and men such as Luther, Tyndale, Calvin, Knox, Owen, Bunyan, Edwards, et cetera affirmed that the Gospel is narrow in focus. It is not broad. The door unto salvation is not wide nor is it easy to find. Our Lord Himself said that few find it. These few are those chosen out of the world by God Himself (see the passage I placed at the top of this post). In our time we have pastors such as Rick Warren loudly proclaiming that the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church are of God and are Christian, thereby attempting to nullify the Protestant Reformation. Why would anyone seek to do this? Warren is on a mission to bring unity amongst all professing Christians regardless of severe doctrinal differences. Have you noticed my brethren that that includes all professing Christians except those who refuse to broaden the Gospel, who teach that the Church is made up of the elect of God and that is not in any way editable by anyone?
The message by men such as Rick Warren is appealing to many. Why? It is inclusive instead of exclusive. It is easy instead of hard. In other words, it is appealing to the flesh, but a dead end to the spirit. It is as if the Purpose Driven Church model is a very large bulldozer or earth mover that has widened and smoothed the path to the Celestial City so as many people as possible can make the trip without all of that repentance, trials, tests, and dangers that God uses to grow His saints. The following is an excerpt from John Bunyan’s masterpiece, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Pilgrim has made it through the gate which is at the head of the narrow way. The gatekeeper is named Goodwill. He is preparing to send Christian to the Interpreter (the Holy Spirit).
Goodwill – We make no objections against any, notwithstanding all that they have done before they come hither. They in no wise are cast out; and therefore, good Christian, come a little way with me, and I will teach thee about the way thou must go. Look before thee; dost thou see this narrow way? That is the way thou must go. It was cast up by the the Patriarchs, Prophets, Christ and his Apostles, and it is as strait as a Rule can make it: This is the Way thou must go.
Christian – But, said Christian, are there no turnings nor windings, by which a Stranger may lose his way?
Goodwill – Yes, there are many ways butt down upon this; and they are crooked and wide: But thus thou mayst distinguish the right from the wrong, the Right only being strait and narrow.
14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:14 NASB)
Do you see my brethren that the way unto life is not wide nor is it open to all forms of interpretation. There is only one way and that is through the narrow gate which sends us down the strait and narrow way which leads to life. What this means to our 21st Century minds, which are way too sophisticated (tongue in cheek) for the simplicity of the gospel way, is that we are in for a huge battle if we obey our Lord by walking the narrow path. This battle will bring sorrow and persecution because it is against the ways of the world and flies in the face of the form of Christianity that is predominate in our time. The vast majority of the Visible Church is Compromised. It is worldly and fleshly. It is friends with those who are direct spiritual descendants of the ones whom William Tyndale wrote of who persecute those chosen out of the world. Notice that those who do this are the religious leaders of their day.
Are you up to it my brethren? Are you encouraged to remain faithful even though it appears that the Church has been taken over by the world? God is good. Those who are His are held in his mighty hands and He will not lose one. However, that does not mean we will not suffer persecution of some form for refusing to compromise in our walk before the face of God.
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,
“ For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
WE were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:28-39 NASB)
My brethren, that is a wonderful promise isn’t it? Yes, it is, but be forewarned, no one has ever been saved by making a profession of faith or by doing some religious act. No, the only ones on the narrow path who have gone through the narrow gate are the regenerate whom God effectually called.
To those reading this who do not believe that the way to God is as described here then I suggest some serious Bible study coupled with a great deal of prayer. Make no assumptions that what you have been hearing from the pulpiteers you listen to is correct. Nor should you assume that your “understanding” in your mind is correct. Take it to God asking Him to show you the truth. I pray that God will guide you into the light. To the rest reading this who are certain that you are on the narrow path then I rejoice with you. I pray that God will manifest the fruit of the spirit in you and give you the spiritual strength to complete your journey.
Soli Deo Gloria
1 William Tyndale, The Obedience of a Christian Man, (London: Penguin Books, 2000) 3-4. First published in Antwerp in 1528